Neuromuscular transmission in the jellyfish Aglantha digitale

P A Kerfoot, G O Mackie, R W Meech, A Roberts, C L Singla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


In the jellyfish Aglantha digitale escape swimming is mediated by the nearly synchronous activity of eight giant motor axons which make direct synaptic contact with contractile myoepithelial cells on the under-surface of the body wall. The delay in transmission at these synapses was 0.7 +/- 0.1 ms (+/- S.D.;N = 6) at 12 degrees C as measured from intracellular records. Transmission depended on the presence of Ca2+ in the bathing medium. It was not blocked by increasing the level of Mg2+ to 127 mmol l-1. The myoepithelium is a thin sheet of electrically coupled cells and injection of current at one point was found to depolarize the surrounding cells. The potential change declined with distance from the current source as expected for two-dimensional current spread. The two-dimensional space constant (lambda) was 770 micron for current flow in the circular direction and 177 micron for radial flow. The internal resistance of the epithelium (178-201 omega cm) and the membrane time constant (5-10 ms) were direction independent. No propagated epithelial action potentials were observed. Spontaneous miniature synaptic potentials of similar amplitude and rise-time were recorded intracellularly at distances of up to 1 mm from the motor giant axon. Ultrastructural evidence confirms that neuro-myoepithelial synapses also occur away from the giant axons. It is likely that synaptic sites are widespread in the myoepithelium, probably associated with the lateral motor neurones as well as the giant axons. Local stimulation of lateral motor neurones generally produced contraction in distinct fields. We suppose that stimulation of a single motor giant axon excites a whole population of lateral motor neurones and hence a broad area of the myoepithelium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Publication statusPublished - May 1985


  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Axons
  • Calcium
  • Cnidaria
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Epithelium
  • Magnesium
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Motor Neurons
  • Muscles
  • Neural Conduction
  • Scyphozoa
  • Synapses
  • Synaptic Transmission


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